THE GATHERING ON THE RÜTLI
 Three weeks passed, and the Wednesday before Martinmas
arrived. The short winter's day was over. The lights in
the cottages went out. All seemed at rest.
It was then, in the starlight and the quiet, that
Walter, Werner and Arnold crept out from their darkened
The air was clear and crisp, and the ground was covered
with frost, although no snow had yet fallen, as through
the dim forest by secret ways the three came silently
Each of them had worked well. But they had worked in
fear, for Austrian spies were everywhere. It was hard
to know at times
 who was friend and who was foe. Since the night they
had talked together in Walter Fürst's house, they had
not dared to meet again, and each of the three wondered
how the others had succeeded.
The moon shone brightly, as the dark figures stole
silently through the forest Arnold came from
Unterwalden bringing with him ten men. He knew every
path and byway in the forest or mountain-side, and
hardly a word was spoken till they arrived at the place
"We are the first," said Arnold, as he stepped from the
shadow of the trees into the moonlit space and found
no one there. As he spoke a bell rang out clear and
sharp across the lake. All listened. "It is the great
bell of Altorf ringing twelve," said Arnold; "how well
one hears it in the frosty air. The others will not be
As the men stood around waiting they
 talked in low voices, and presently the distant splash
of oars was heard.
"That must be Werner Stauffacher," said Arnold, looking
across the moonlit water. "I can see his boat. Wait
here, I will meet him on the shore and bring him to
Arnold disappeared in the bushes, and the men could
hear him scrambling down the rocky pathway to the
Then all was silence again until the boat was quite
near. "Who goes there?" called Arnold sharply.
"Friends of Freedom," replied Stauffacher's voice.
"Welcome," said Arnold as the boat touched the shore,
"you do not come alone, I see."
"No," replied Werner, "I have brought ten trusty men
with me. And you?"
"I too have brought ten men," replied Arnold, as he
turned to lead the way upward.
 "And what of Walter Fürst?" said Werner, as they
reached the open space.
"He cannot now be long," said Arnold. "Ah, here he
comes," and as he spoke Walter Fürst came into the ring
of moonlight. Several men followed him, and beside him
walked a young man. He was straight and tall, his eyes
were clear and honest. He looked strong and brave, yet
gentle and kind.
"William Tell," said Arnold, springing forward and
seizing his hand. "God be thanked you are with us."
"So that is William Tell," said one of the men from
Schwytz. "He is Walter Fürst's son-in-law, is he not? I
have often heard of him. They say he is the best shot
in all Switzerland."
"And so he is," replied another. "I have seen him shoot
an apple from a tree a hundred paces off."
Then in the moonlight the men gathered
 together, Walter, Werner, and Arnold in the middle, the
others around them.
"You know well, good friends," said Walter, "why we are
here. It is our own free country in which we meet, yet
we have to creep together at midnight and in fear. Much
cruelty and injustice we have patiently borne, but now
we can bear no more, and we have sworn, we three, to
free our land from the power of Austria. Are you
willing to join us?"
"That we are," cried every one.
"Then hear the oath which we swear," said Walter. And
while the others stood silently around them, the three
raised their hands to heaven and solemnly spoke. "We
hereby promise never to betray or forsake each other;
never to think of ourselves, but in everything to think
only of our country; we promise not to try to take away
from the Austrians any lands which by right belong to
them, but only to free our
 own land from them. We will keep true to the Emperor,
but the Austrian Governor, his friends, his servants,
and his soldiers, we will utterly drive out of the
land. If it may be, we will do this without fighting or
shedding of blood. But if that may not be, we are ready
to die, so that we free our country and hand on to our
sons the freedom which our fathers left us. God and His
holy ones helping us, in this bond we will live and
The three raised their hands to heaven and solemnly spoke
Grandly and solemnly the words rang out on the still
night air. No other sound was heard; above was the deep
blue sky glittering with stars; around, the dark and
silent pine forest. These three-and-thirty men seemed
alone in all the world. When the voices of the three
ceased, a shout rose from the others. "Amen,
cried, "we too would take the oath." And each of
the thirty, raising his hand to heaven, repeated the
 Long they talked, for what they meant to do was
difficult and dangerous, and needed much thought and
careful planning. But at last everything was settled.
The stars began to fade, the first light of dawn
streaked the sky, and the snow-topped mountains were
reddened by the rising sun before these
three-and-thirty men parted. "Look," said Tell,
pointing to the glowing hill-tops, "it is the dawn of a
Then they parted, each man going back to his home
resolved to be patient but a little longer, for on New
Year's Day the Austrian tyranny was to end.